In Flanders Field

Poppies at Wildseed Farms ~ Fredericksburg, Texas


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
                                                   ~  John McCrae

Comments always are welcome. For more information on the poem, and McCrae, click here.


26 thoughts on “In Flanders Field

    1. The wildflower farm had a sign posted at their poppy fields, noting their symbolic significance and mentioning the poem. That was touching, too.

  1. I agree with the Zeebra!! Touching and sobering for sure. I suppose the blood red of the poppies is fitting on many levels. Thought I’d mention the author of the poem Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a member of the first Canadian contingent and died in France January 28th of 1918 after four years of service on the western front of pneumonia. Some say the poem was written after the death of a friend in 1915 in battle. He was a poet, artist and a physician. So many went to war to serve their country when it was far from their nature to be a warrior. Both World Wars produced poetry that could only come from immeasurable sorrow.

    1. World War I particularly produced some touching — and harrowing — poetry. I did read that this poem was written after the funeral of McCrae’s friend and fellow soldier, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. It seems McCrae wasn’t satisfied with it, and threw it away, but it was reclaimed by other soldiers — or so the legend goes. However it came to us, I’m glad it did.

      1. I did not know that part of the story, but I think it shows the frustration of finding the right words to describe feeling so overwhelming and feeling at a loss.

        1. One of my favorite stories is of Harper Lee throwing the manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird out the window of her New York apartment — and then being made by her editor to go down into the snow and pick the darned thing up.

          1. Sometimes with photos the same thing can happen…you think what you did with it didn’t work at all and leave it. After time goes by and you look….or read…again and you feel differently. Maybe time away from the actual effort gives fresh perspective.

  2. What memories this poem brings. It was a poem I had to memorize in 6th grade. I remember struggling over a rather dramatic rendition in front of my class of 5th, 6th and 7th graders at a small two room country school in Connecticut. As I recall the teacher, who had taught most of the kid’s parents (not mine) was fond of assigning long, deep and significant poetry to memorize. One of her other choices was “Excelsior!”, though I never understood its message other than the boy obviously froze to death in the Alps.

    1. There have been some wonderful parodies of “Excelsior,” including one done by Bullwinkle and Rockie. But I’m fond of this, from A. E. Housman:

      Beware the pass,” the old man said,
      My bold, my desperate fellah;
      Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
      And you’ll want your umbrella;

      And the roaring torrent is deep and wide–
      You may hear how loud it washes.”
      But still that clarion voice replied:
      I’ve got my old galoshes.

      I never had to memorize “Excelsior,” but we also memorized “In Flanders Fields.” Invariably, it was part of every year’s celebration, in one way or another.

  3. This must be such a beautiful sight, all those poppies dancing in the breeze! And what a lovely tribute to Memorial Day — hope yours in going well!

    1. I wished the day had been less of a drizzly, cloudy mess, so I could have done a better job with the photos. Still, the poppies were impressive, and fun to see. Maybe next year the sun will shine. Enjoy your Memorial Day.

    1. We didn’t spend any time in the gift shops, which felt a little overwhelming, but the fields of flowers and the gardens are well worth seeing. One nice touch is that their website provides bloom updates, so you know what’s flowering before you go. It’s a great place to take photos in bluebonnets, too. They provide a special little field for that, so people aren’t tempted to go into the growing fields.

  4. A good choice for a flower of remembrance for those who gave “the last full measure of devotion.” Red for the blood shed; black for death, and gold at the very heart, where it should be.

    1. Exactly. Whether the poem turned the poppy into a symbol, or the beauty of the poppies inspired the poem — or both — the pairing is powerful.

  5. Leave it to you to post a very appropriate tribute. My son got back in one piece from Afghanistan, but one of his buddies, there at the same time but in a different unit, lies at Arlington as we speak. Sean’s parents and sisters are still brokenhearted after eight years and their continuing grief is, sadly, as natural a rhythm as the poppies coming up every Spring.

    1. Grief does have its seasons and its rhythms. That’s sometimes true even for the survivors. It’s so good to know that your son returned, and in one piece, as we say. Many others return, but in many pieces — that’s where places like Houston’s Camp Hope become so important, as they help PTS sufferers put the pieces back in place. It’s good to remember those who gave their lives; it would be even better not to add to their number.

  6. John McCrae is among the authors who are famous for just one work. Think Harper Lee for To Kill a Mockingbird and Margaret Mitchell for Gone with the Wind (admittedly much longer works).

    1. Knowing that McCrae’s poem was rescued by his fellow soldiers after he abandoned it, and that Harper Lee tossed her manuscript from a New York apartment window, I wondered about Margaret Mitchell. Her story isn’t quite the same, and yet it resonates in a bit of the same way. I found this:

      “Despite spending 10 years of her life working on the tome, Mitchell didn’t really have much intention of publishing it. When a “friend” heard that she was considering writing a book (though in fact, it had been written), she said something to the effect of, “Imagine, you writing a book!” Annoyed, Mitchell took her massive manuscript to a Macmillan editor the next day. She later regretted the act and sent the editor a telegram saying, “Have changed my mind. Send manuscript back.”

  7. The poppies are popping up in our yard, although they are of the California type, yellow/orange. Still they are fitting for a poem, and for remembering. –Curt

    1. They are fitting, Curt. In fact, at Wildseed Farms, the California poppies have supplanted the lovely red poppies, and are filling the fields there, too. They’re equally beautiful, and their wild spread is one of my best memories of California.

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